Noon at Ghost House Farm, and Peggy is screaming again. The guttural cries coming from an abandoned house where a 1940s blue dress hangs in a ruined kitchen. Peggy’s dress, perhaps? Is this the mournful ghost of an old Keweenaw potato farm?

Not exactly. Peggy is my daughter’s lead goat, the fierce protector of two other mamas and their collection of six kids. My grand “kids.”

You see, at noon, Allison and her husband Drew take their two new puppies (Oberon and Uther) to their dormant market garden to train. They each put a meal’s worth of kibble in their pouches and take turns calling the pups across the snowy enclosure. Whoever has the attention of Obie and Ute feeds them kibble as a reward. The boys sit, lie down, and circle clockwise and then counterclockwise. Then, they get called across the garden to perform their training with their other human.

Peggy screams because she knows that that grain and hay follow puppy training.

Have you ever heard a goat scream? If you haven’t, here’s a take:

Every time I hear Peggy, I think she’s dying. She’s not. She’s impatient for goat kibble. The worst screaming happened the day Allison and Drew got the goats and they transported the herd in their 2007 Toyota Rav. Think, car. Yes, they moved nine goats in a car but had to make two trips. Peggy was in the first lot to move and she screamed frantically for the rest of her herd. Allison wasn’t sure they wanted goat milk after all.

My son-in-law was determined to have goat milk. He knows it makes my face contort to even think of drinking it. Actually, cow-dairy aggravates a condition he has. But he does think it’s funny to watch me struggle with liking anything flavored like a goat. To offer me goat cheese is to suggest I go lick a goat. *shudders*

Me and goats go way back to coastal California ranches where young vaqueros learned skills with smaller critters like goats. I was riding goats as a toddler and by the time I was five or six, I was goat-tying in the San Benito Rodeo. I had won Best Girls Outfit when I was four. It wasn’t about my hand-sewn western shirt or my little boots and white gloves. It was a competition to rein a working cattle horse in a simple series of tasks under the guidance of an adult.

This old photo my cousin shared with me a few years ago is grainy, but you can see the steep and dry hills of the terrain where we lived. Those stirrups are genuine vaquero tapaderos on a child’s saddle that cinched a full-grown horse. We were horse people. Not goat people. But somehow, I had licked a goat one too many times to tolerate their dairy.

Peggy likes her neck scratched, though. I’ve relented enough to feed and touch the goats. It was the littles goat that won me over — Beast. He’s a snuggle kid. My daughter is in love with Beast (they must give off love parasites like cats). He sits in her lap. I want to read to the goats and think it would be grand if Peggy screamed. It would send me into a fit of giggles. What should I read to goats?

It’s December 2, the darkest night of the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere (please send sunshine from down under). Solstice season begins with the New Moon tomorrow. Many prepare to celebrate the Christmas holiday, and we become more aware of other festivities and celebrations as we share around the world. All our ancestors tracked the moon, stars, planets, and sun rotations. Maybe our current climate crisis would be resolved if we reconnected with our roots in nature.

But I think we are all weary. Pandemic fatigue is global. Worry is just a thought away. Uncertainty looms.

This is the season, no matter what we each celebrate and why, to be kind and compassionate. This is a time to rally joy. Not a false mask of happiness or toxic positivity, but joy that blooms from gratitude. When we feel grateful despite weariness and fears, we cultivate joy. Here’s a cheery song to boost our spirits (thank you, Annie Lennox).

Goats and Christmas music. That’s a specific vibe. Already, I’ve issued this prompt to my ENG I class and I hope to publish some of their stories with yours next week (I’ll indicate in the byline if they are a FinnU student). This semester has been their first time writing flash fiction. I’m pleased with their efforts and many have said it was their favorite part of the class.

My first semester of teaching is soon to end. I can hardly register that I’ve graduated. What a year it’s been. I’m looking forward to hot chocolate, and festive lights, and sappy holiday movies. This is a time to reflect, to draw inward, and prepare for a new year. We can go quietly or we can go screaming like Peggy.

December 2, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the littlest Christmas goat. Who does the goat belong to? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 7, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

How Christmas Got His Name by Charli Mills

The milk goats woke Sunny late on Christmas Eve. Their screams rang with real terror. Ma burst down the stairs by the time Sunny flung open her bedroom door, following. Ma’s shotgun rang out like bursts of fireworks. Four dogs fled, yipping.

“Blasted city-slickers. Don’t they realize when they let their canines out at night dogs form a pack and turn feral?” Ma swore. I crept behind her to see the littlest goat bleeding from his torn neck.

Next day, neighbors visited with apology cookies, and crooned regrets over Christmas, the little goat bandaged and blanketed beneath our tree.


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